Count von Count

It all started with SETI@Home.

On May 16, 1999 someone turned me on to the whole SETI@Home project and although the idea of finding intelligent life in outer space is cool, my real draw to it was to see how fast I could run the program. For me, it was more of a “hot rod” application more than anything else. How fast can I process a unit? The first computer I ran it on was a 133MHz Sharp Widenote and it took about 36 hours to process. I would compare this to other friends who were running the program as well and then see how my “ride” stacked up. Of course, I was running a laptop and I’d had it for a couple of years, so I was a bit behind the curve, but I later put together a workstation and then began tweaking in earnest to try and be the fastest among my peers. I even started a group for NPUG.

Like all fads, this one ran it’s course in due time. Yet, to this day, I’m still running the little program. There have been other Distributed Computing projects, but none of them really struck my fancy. Some had truly noble goals and what not, but I just had this feeling of “been there done that,” and I just didn’t feel like jumping into another one. Then I ran across something called Project-Dolphin. Although it was a distributed computing application, it was a different animal all together.

Instead of using your computer to crunch data, all this little applet did was count your key clicks and then submit the count to a web server for all to see. At first I thought it was an asinine idea, but as I thought more about it, the idea began to grow on me. I know I sit at the computer and type a lot – hell, my wife has nicknamed me “clicky” – but what struck me about this little app was that it would tell me just how MUCH I click.

So, I signed up, downloaded the app and then began to watch the number grow and I was STUNNED. In the period of about two and a half months, I had typed over 1 Million keystrokes. It was amazing to see just how much typing I was doing. On a good, or busy day, I would type 30,000 – 40,000 keystrokes. From time-to-time I have had some pain in my forearms, nothing like carpal tunnel, but the same idea. Now I could see in simple numbers why I’d get the pain. Too many 40,000 days and I’d be in for some pain (I am Jack’s inflamed tendons). I found that I was also using the data to also monitor my productivity. If I found 3 days in a row of number below 10,000 then I could feel like I needed to “crack down” on myself. I could also see where this application could be used to monitor employees.

If you have knowledge workers who spend the majority of their time at their desks, you could monitor just how active they are at their computers. It wouldn’t tell you WHAT they were typing, but you could at least see how much they were typing. If you sent in the results by the hour, you could then find out what hours were most productive for each employee, or compile it for the entire office. If you find that 10am – 12pm is the most productive period of time, then you could schedule meetings for earlier, or later in the day.

All fanciful and theoretical ideas aside, I did like counting my keystrokes with Project Dolphin. After I had approximately 3.5 Million keystrokes, the developer announced that he was canceling the project. It seems that he had originally written the program for a few friends, but after some web attention, the project just grew out of control. After logging close to 4 Million keystrokes, you can imagine my disappointment in “losing” all that data. However, two other teams picked up the flag and created new projects. The one I decided to go with was Project Orca (site no longer available).

I forgot when I joined this program, but I’m currently sitting at 1, 062,273 and guess what? They are going to start over. :O . It seems that there’s a great deal of cheating and once they finish the new client, they will reset everyone’s total count. My disappointment in the reset is because I’m curious to see my data for an entire year. Up to this point, the longest time period I’ve been able to evaluate is a few months. I’d be interested to know what my data would look like after a full year.

Why? I don’t know really. I’ve just always liked numbers. Not in a math sort of way, where you enjoy playing with them through calculations, but more in a report, or chart kind of way. Oh man how I love a good chart. Hopefully, once the new client is released, I’ll be able to get my wish after a year of using it. 😛 If you’d like to be a cohort in my perversity, feel free to join my Project Orca Team (site no longer available). Note: After the page loads, hit “CTRL + F” to do a search within the page and type “InterPUG” to find the team. For those of you that didn’t catch my reference in the title of this post [link].

Update (2013-07-16): Project Dolphin and Project Orca both eventually discontinued their service, but a similar service evolved and has been maintained ever since, called WhatPulse.